Trust in Business Back on Track–Tentatively

A year ago, I mentioned that The Edelman Group released some not-so-encouraging research regarding the results of a survey called the Edelman Trust Barometer. The new survey for business in 2010 has shown some modest gains when it comes to overall trust in business. Here's the interesting thing…the rise in trust is considered to be tenuous, mostly because most public respondents "expect business and financial companies will revert to business as usual after the recession." Also interesting is the fact that, while business trust has risen, trust in government remains about the same and trust in media continues to decline.

This means that leaders today have to do even more to reflect leadership integrity and to make visible theTrust values that they are all espousing. It's no hard to say you HAVE values. But the result of value driven decisions can be seen in behaviors and outcomes and folks are just not confident that this will happen.

Take FedEx for example. Like many organizations, FedEx has undergone layoffs and salary reductions after attempting to do everything possible to avoid impacting the people that make up the company. But they have had little choice in the matter. Nonetheless, they have approached these challenges in a unique way. CEO Fred Smith has followed a plan where, the higher you are in the organization, the greater the pay cut. "At first-line management, the pay cut is between 15% and 20%," said Smith in a Public Radio interview. "At my level, it is 90%" But it's not just Smith versus the front-line. At each level of the hierarcy, a larger reltaive amount of pay is committed to the salary reductions.

If you want to turn around the perception that people have of your company integrity, or if you want to strengthen the perception of integrity and improve your credibility, this is a good lesson to remember. First, don't be afraid to make bold statements about your values, your priorities and what you individually and as a company believe in. Second, don't hesitate to act on those bold statements. If you make the occasional mistake as everybody does, you can go back and correct it as well as possible and move on. If you actions have been aligned with your espoused valiues, you will be more likely to weather successes and failures with your integrity intact.

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